Liv Reinhardt Myklebust, a Norwegian, traveled to the United States in 1980 to attend Brenau University in Gainesville on a Georgia Rotary Student scholarship.
Little did she realize then she would make lifelong American friends, and that her son would be attending a Georgia college more than three decades later. Espen Myklebust is a student at Young Harris College, likewise on a Rotary scholarship.
Gainesville Rotary Club sponsored Liv when she was at Brenau, and the Clayton Rotary Club is sponsoring her son.
Liv enjoyed the warm climate during her stay away from the often-frigid conditions of her home country. She was active in sports and jogged all around Gainesville.
Her major was in commercial art, she completed college in Norway in 1984 and became an advertising art director. That was the same year Liv met her husband Tom. Besides Espen they have a daughter, Nina, 17.
Liv’s best friend at Brenau was Vicki Wubbena, who married Alan Hope of Gainesville. The families have visited each others’ homes and kept in touch ever since. She also has visited with Ronnie and Elaine Waller, whom she knew through Rotary, and Phil and Shirley Hudgins, one of her Brenau teachers.
Espen is as enthusiastic about his Young Harris experience as his mother is about Brenau.
“It has surpassed all expectations,” he said. He was thinking “big school” when he applied for the Rotary program. “Now I could not imagine anywhere I would rather go. I have fallen in love with the place, its students, the teachers and staff …”
He especially appreciates the small classes, friendly people and teachers who know their students’ names. Espen calls himself “the oldest freshman” because he takes higher level courses, having a college year under his belt in Norway. In most colleges in Norway, students don’t necessarily have to attend class, he said, because the final exam is 100 percent of their grade. He likes having assignments that cause him to study regularly instead of cramming all at once for a final test. It must work for him because he’s on the dean’s list.
Espen also enjoys the outdoors activities, such as hiking, kayaking, climbing and quail hunting. After taking a whitewater kayaking course, he bought a kayak. He loves the Georgia mountains, though he says they are mere hills compared to those in Norway. He’s not homesick, but misses skiing and kitesurfing or kiteboarding, a water sport.
Espen is active in Student Government Association and other organizations and with a background in gymnastics tried out for competitive cheerleading just for fun. Practicing sometimes for 11 straight hours, he made the team, which will soon compete in nationals. He also was on the ultimate Frisbee team.
His travels have included New York, Washington, Savannah and other points on Georgia’s coast.
As for American food, “I am used to a very healthy diet back in Norway,” Espen said, “however there are not many things that can compare to a homemade Southern-cooking meal.” He does try to avoid fried food in the cafeteria or fast-food restaurants.
He misses his family and friends in Norway, but is obviously happy at Young Harris. So happy, in fact, that he has figured out a way to spend another year at the mountain college.
Then Espen will return to Norway and complete college, hoping to earn a masters of business administration someday. His goal is to lead a big event company, perhaps own one of his own.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.